The supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has taken a new harder line in his nation’s nuclear negotiations with the West. He made comments last night on Iranian state television that seem to contradict what has previously been reported as the central points of a deal that would see Iran relinquish its nuclear aspirations.
The Ayatollah’s main new demand is that economic sanctions against his country be lifted before it agrees to dismantle any part of its nuclear program or even allows foreign inspectors into Iran.
“All economic, financial and banking sanctions, implemented either by the United Nations Security Council, the United States Congress or the administration, must be lifted immediately when the deal is signed, ” he said.
“We don’t accept 10-year restriction. We have told the negotiating team how many specific years of restrictions are acceptable. Research and development must continue during the years of restrictions, ” he added. “Unlike the insistence from the Americans, we do not accept long-term limitations of 10, 12 years, and we told them how many years [of] limitations we are ready to accept.”
“America is after destroying our nuclear industry altogether. Our negotiators’ aim is to safeguard Iran’s integrity… and our nuclear achievements during the talks.”
American and European negotiators must be shocked by Ali Khameni’s words. But some are already attempting to dismiss them as merely posturing ahead of a final deal.
“My best judgment is that this is about leverage, ” Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of Eurasia Group, a political risk research and consulting firm in Washington, told the New York Times. “This is the last time to get the best possible deal. I think what he’s shooting for is the most sanctions relief he can get as soon as he can get it, and the least intrusive inspection regime going forward.”
Somewhere, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is saying to himself, “told you so!”